As explained on Mayo Clinic, endometriosis is a painful disorder (happens only in women) during which a tissue that normally grows in the uterus’s inside grows outside of it. In most cases, it includes the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and the pelvis tissue. In rare cases, then endometrial tissue may spread beyond the pelvic organs.
During endometriosis, the displaced endometrial tissue acts as it would normally, that is, it thickens, breaks down, and bleeds with each period. However, since it has no way to get out of the body, it becomes trapped and as a result, cysts may form, as well as scar tissue and adhesions. Pain, often severe, is very common among endometriosis sufferers, particularly periods, as well as fertility-related complications.
Luckily, there are beneficial treatments available today that can help manage this condition and the complications associated with it.
Contributing Factors to Endometriosis
Even though the main reason for endometriosis remains unknown, there are potential contributing factors. Check them out in the list shown below:
1. Immune system disorder
Sometimes, an issue with the immunity can make the body incapable of recognizing and destroying endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus.
2. Retrograde menstruation
During this type of menstruation, the blood with endometrial cells goes back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of going out of the body. These tissues then remain in the pelvic walls and surfaces of pelvic organs. They continue growing and thickening and bleeding with each menstrual cycle.
3. Surgical scar implantation
Endometrial cells may attach to a surgical incision after a C-section or a hysterectomy.
4. Transformation of embryonic cell
Hormones like estrogen may transform the embryonic cells (during puberty) into endometrial cell implants.
A woman’s chance of endometriosis may elevate in the following cases:
• Short menstrual cycles ( less than 27 days)
• Low BMI
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Never giving birth
• Getting period at an early age
• Endometriosis that runs in the family
• Uterine problems
• Higher levels of estrogen
Major Indicators of Endometriosis
As explained on Medical News Today, these are the main symptoms of endometriosis that a woman may or may not experience:
➢ Longer menstrual period than 7 days
➢ Strong menstrual cramps (they do not go away with NSAIDS)
➢ Chronic lower back and pelvic ache
➢ Bloody urine or stool
➢ Urinary and bowel issues, i.e. constipation, bloating, diarrhea, etc.
➢ Extreme menstrual bleeding
➢ Discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse
➢ Bleeding or spotting between periods
When not treated properly, endometriosis may lead to several complications, including infertility, higher risk of ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, scar tissue, inflammation, and bladder and intestine problems.
The Stages of Endometriosis
As explained on Medicine Net, endometriosis is divided into one of four possible stages on the basis of the location, depth, and extent of the implants and the seriousness of scar tissue and the presence of implants in the ovaries. The stages are:
• Minimal (1st stage)
• Mild (2nd stage)
• Moderate (3rd stage)
• Severe (4th stage)
In minimal or mild endometriosis, the scarring is mild and the implants are superficial whereas the moderate and severe cases are manifested by cysts and serious scarring. Infertility is a common in women with endometriosis in the 4th stage.
The Link between Endometriosis & Infertility
As explained on Medicine Net, endometriosis is more frequent in infertile women, unlike in those who have been pregnant. Nonetheless, a lot of women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis manage conceiving, especially if their illness is mild or moderate and often times, they require no treatment to achieve this.
Unfortunately, the reasons behind the fertility problems in endometriosis patients remain only partially understood. Some experts believe this to be associated with hormonal and anatomical factors. The therapy for infertility due to endometriosis varies; however, most doctors assert that surgery is the superior method. Also, assisted reproductive technology may be used as an alternative to surgery or an additional treatment.
How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
According to Medicine Net, symptoms like pelvic pain and specific findings during physical OB-GYN tests may indicate endometriosis. But, symptoms and physical examinations are not conclusive when it comes to diagnosing endometriosis. Doctors rule out other pelvic illnesses and may suggest endometriosis with the help of an ultrasound, although they are not able to reliably diagnose it with it. For a precise diagnosis, a visual inspection in the pelvis (laparoscopy) and abdomen is necessary, as well as implant tissue biopsy.
Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure which is considered to be a definitive method for the diagnosis of endometriosis. It is a minor surgical procedure which is done under general or local anaesthesia. The patient’s abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide by making a small incision in the navel and then a thin viewing system, i.e. laparoscope is inserted to check out the abdomen and pelvis and look for endometrial implants. During this procedure, the doctor may also remove small tissues for analysis (biopsy).
What Are the Treatment Options for Endometriosis?
• Pain meds
NSAIDS or other pain-management medications may be prescribed for alleviating painful periods.
• Hormonal therapy
Your doctor may advise taking hormonal birth control or placing an IUD device.
• Fertility therapy
You may be advised to become pregnant with the help of in-vitro fertilization.
In case none of the previous treatments helps alleviate the condition, surgery may be required. During the procedure, the endometriosis areas are removed. In some cases, hysterectomy (removal of the ovaries) may also be needed.
*Despite no cure for endometriosis, most women with the illness are able to manage the pain and are still be able to conceive*
Useful Tips for Managing Endometriosis
• Some alternative treatments for endometriosis that women often turn to are herbal medicine, acupuncture, and chiropractic
• For some women, avoiding caffeine may help decrease ache
• Walking is a physical activity which may lower pain and slow down the progression of the illness through the reduction of the estrogen levels
• According to a study, a diet low on short-chain-fermentable carbs may minimize the symptoms
• Dairy products were shown to decrease the chance for endometriosis
• Gastrointestinal symptoms may be alleviated by increasing the probiotics in one’s diet by eating more foods like pickles, yogurt, and sauerkraut